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With Vacation Rentals Empty, European Cities See a Chance to Reclaim Housing

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LISBON — Long before the coronavirus swept across Europe this spring, many cities had been complaining that a proliferation of short-term apartment rentals aimed at tourists through platforms like Airbnb was driving up housing costs for locals and destroying the character of historic districts.

Now that the pandemic has all but cut off the steady flow of visitors, many European cities are seizing an opportunity to push short-term rentals back onto the long-term housing market.

In Lisbon, the Portuguese capital, the city government is becoming a landlord itself by renting empty apartments and subletting them as subsidized housing. In Barcelona, Spain, the housing department is threatening to take possession of empty properties and do the same.

Other city governments are enacting or planning new laws to curb the explosive growth of rentals aimed largely at tourists. Amsterdam has banned vacation rentals in the heart of the old city; a Berlin official warned of a crackdown on short-term leasing platforms “trying to evade regulation and the enforcement of law”; and Paris is planning a referendum on Airbnb-type listings.

For years, properties rented out for short-term stays have put pressure on the housing markets in several European cities. Lisbon has more than 22,000 Airbnb listings, according to Inside Airbnb, which tracks listings in cities around the globe. Barcelona has 18,000, and Paris — one of the platform’s largest markets — has nearly 60,000.

When tourists are plentiful, renting a property on a short-term basis can be more lucrative for owners than a long-term tenant, something that city governments say has distorted housing markets in cities where supply is already tight. They also accuse online platforms of circumventing laws put in place to protect local markets.

“We cannot tolerate that accommodations that could be rented to Parisians are now rented all year to tourists,” the deputy mayor of Paris, Ian Brossat, said in a phone interview. Mr. Brossat also said he was hoping to cut the number of days per year that a property can be rented through platforms like Airbnb — currently 120. He accused the company of breaching even that rule.

“Airbnb pretends to respect the law, but it’s not the case,” said Mr. Brossat, who has written a book critical of Airbnb and its impact on cities.

Airbnb denies any wrongdoing, in Paris or elsewhere. “They’ve set the rules, and we’re following the rules,” said Patrick Robinson, Airbnb’s director of public policy for Europe, the Middle East and Africa. “Where there is a vigorous discussion about the right regulations, we’re part of that conversation, and ultimately that’s for local politicians to decide.”

He said that Airbnb provided registration details and other data to the authorities in major tourism hubs like Lisbon, Paris and Barcelona to help city officials enforce their rules. “We actually think that better access to data is the solution here.” In September, the company introduced City Portal, which it says will allow governments access to data that can help identify listings that do not comply with local regulations, such as unregistered listings.

The most ambitious initiative is arguably the one in Lisbon, which has started signing five-year leases for empty short-term rental apartments. These properties are then sublet at lower prices to people eligible for subsidized housing. The city government has set aside 4 million euros, or about $4.7 million, for the first year of subsidies.

“We entered the pandemic with a huge pressure on our housing market, and we cannot afford to exit the pandemic with the same set of problems,” said the city’s mayor, Fernando Medina. “This program is not a magic wand, but it can be part of the solution in terms of raising the supply of affordable housing.”

The program is aiming to attract 1,000 apartment owners this year, and has drawn 200 so far. Mr. Medina said he was confident that the plan would meets its goal, since a rebound in tourism anytime soon seems increasingly unlikely as the pandemic drags on.

The plan has been welcomed by some neighborhood associations that had criticized local politicians for allowing the city to become a playground for tourists and wealthy investors, many of them drawn to Portugal by residency permits and tax breaks offered to foreigners after the 2007-8 financial crisis.

“The coronavirus has helped expose the negative aspects of Portugal’s recovery from the financial crisis, which was driven by real estate and tourism rather than a focus on the basic needs of local people,” said Luís Mendes, an urban geographer who is a member of a citizens’ platform called Living in Lisbon.

Above all, Mr. Mendes said, the lockdown restrictions used to contain the coronavirus put the spotlight on the housing imbalances in Lisbon. “How can you quarantine if you don’t have a decent house?” he said. “We now have a city hall that has put forward an interesting scheme and is at least aware that having a roof is a fundamental human right.”

However, some homeowners do not consider the city government a reliable tenant. Portugal, they say, has a history of legal uncertainty and sudden rule changes whenever a new administration takes office.

“If you look at the track record of the politicians in Lisbon, it’s an absolutely hopeless one, of incompetence and often corruption,” said Rita Alves Machado, who owns three empty short-term apartments around Lisbon. “The city owes money all over the place, and I just don’t believe they will pay on time or stick to their own rules.”

The regulation of short-term rentals has been a drawnout affair in Europe.

In September, the Court of Justice of the European Union backed cities attempting to crack down on short-term rentals, after supporting a French court ruling against two property owners illegally renting out second homes on Airbnb. The court had issued a ruling in Airbnb’s favor last year, saying that it was an online platform rather than a real estate company, which would have required it to comply with housing laws. The European Commission is taking further steps to regulate the platform and others through a new Digital Services Act, which aims to modernize the legal framework for such services across the European Union.

The longer the pandemic hinders travel, the more likely initiatives like Lisbon’s are to gain traction, city officials and local property experts say. In the meantime, Airbnb has found itself on shifting ground.

It has delayed plans for a stock exchange listing, cut $800 million in marketing costs, laid off 1,900 employees and raised $1 billion in emergency funding. Airbnb also dished out $250 million to hosts impacted by cancellations between March and May.

In Lisbon, occupancy rates for Airbnb and Vrbo, a short-rental booking site that was once known as HomeAway, dropped 50 percent in May from a year earlier, according to AirDNA, which collects vacation rental data.

Miguel Tilli, the co-founder of HomeLovers, a Portuguese real estate agency, said he had been listing as many as 60 new properties a month in Lisbon — almost all of which had previously been rented through Airbnb but were now open to long-term tenants.

Rental prices in the city have dropped 10 percent since the start of the pandemic, but landlords who had previously let properties through Airbnb were still resistant to reducing rents.

“Many landlords are acting as if Covid is somebody’s else problem,” Mr. Tilli said. “That cannot last forever.”

Raphael Minder reported from Lisbon, and Geneva Abdul from Paris.

By: Raphael Minder and Geneva Abdul
Title: With Vacation Rentals Empty, European Cities See a Chance to Reclaim Housing
Sourced From: www.nytimes.com/2020/10/25/world/europe/airbnb-lisbon-housing.html
Published Date: Sun, 25 Oct 2020 09:00:15 +0000

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Vacation

What could you order from Ansett Airlines’ inflight bar in the early 1970s?

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People have always liked to drink on board flights, especially people from Australia. Therefore, it should be no surprise to anyone that there was an inflight bar offering in the 1970s.

Ansett Airlines were a major player in the Australian domestic market up until their demise in September 2001. For many years, there were two domestic airlines, Trans-Australia Airlines (TAA) and Ansett.

Ansett’s Inflight Bar

At the time, Ansett operated Boeing 727s, Douglas DC-9s and Fokker F27 Friendships on domestic routes in the country. Airline tickets were quite expensive, with tariffs agreed upon by both airlines thanks to Australia’s weird two-airline policy at the time.

While tickets were expensive and food complimentary, you still had to pay for a drink at the bar. Here is an inflight bar menu from the era, showing the drinks available and their prices.

Clearly the pricing is astounding by today’s standards – 30 cents for a beer? I’ll have thirty-three please! I like how Australian gin is 35c while the imported gin is just 5c more. Which would you choose?

You can tell it is from another era as you can buy cigarettes on board. These price up at 45c, a far cry from the extortionate prices people in the west pay these days for a smoke!

Overall Thoughts

The on board offering is pretty comprehensive for internal flights, and I imagine you’d be hard pressed not to find something you might like. In those times, all payments would have been by cash as well, which would have meant a lot of coinage being handled on board.

Of course, things haven’t changed too much over the years. On many airlines you pay for your drinks just as they did back in the 1970s. Shame the prices aren’t the same of course!

Did you ever buy drinks on board flights from the inflight bar back in the day? Do you still? Thank you for reading and if you have any comments or questions, please leave them below.

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Featured image by Daniel Tanner on Airliners.net via Wikimedia Commons.
Menu image by Ikara on Australian Frequent Flyer.

By: The Flight Detective
Title: What could you order from Ansett Airlines’ inflight bar in the early 1970s?
Sourced From: travelupdate.com/ansett-airlines-inflight-bar-menu/
Published Date: Thu, 19 Nov 2020 15:03:14 +0000

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These Shrimp Leave the Safety of Water and Walk on Land. But Why?

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The shrimp stop swimming at dusk and gather near the river’s edge. After sunset, they begin to climb out of the water. Then they march. All night long, the inch-long crustaceans parade along the rocks.

The parading shrimp of northeastern Thailand have inspired legends, dances and even a statue. (Locals also eat them.) During the rainy season, between late August and early October, tourists crowd the riverbanks with flashlights to watch the shrimp walk.

Watcharapong Hongjamrassilp first learned about the parading shrimp, and the hundred thousand or more tourists who come each year to see them, about 20 years ago. When he started studying biology, he returned to the topic. “I realized that we know nothing about this,” he said: What species are they? Why and how do they leave the safety of the water to walk upstream on dry land? Where are they going?

Mr. Hongjamrassilp, a graduate student at the University of California, Los Angeles, decided to answer those questions himself. His findings appeared this month in the Journal of Zoology.

Working with wildlife center staff members, Mr. Hongjamrassilp staked out nine sites along a river in Thailand’s Ubon Ratchathani province. They found shrimp parading at two of the sites — a stretch of rapids, and a low dam.

The videos they recorded revealed that the shrimp paraded from sundown to sunup. They traveled up to 65 feet upstream. Some individual shrimp stayed out of the water for 10 minutes or more.

“I was so surprised,” Mr. Hongjamrassilp said, “because I never thought that a shrimp can walk that long.” Staying in the river’s splash zone may help them keep their gills wet, so they can keep taking in oxygen. He also observed that the shells of the shrimp seem to trap a little water around their gills, like a reverse dive helmet.

DNA analysis from captured shrimp showed that nearly all belonged to the species Macrobrachium dienbienphuense, part of a genus of shrimp that live mostly or fully in freshwater. Many Macrobrachiumspecies spend part of their lives migrating upstream to their preferred habitats.

Most parading shrimp that Mr. Hongjamrassilp captured were young. Observations and lab experiments showed that these shrimp probably leave the water when the flow becomes too strong for them. Larger adult shrimp can handle a stronger current without washing away, so they’re less likely to leave the water.

Walking on land is dangerous for the little shrimp, even under cover of darkness. Predators including frogs, snakes and large spiders lurk nearby, Mr. Hongjamrassilp says. “Literally, they wait to eat them along the river.”

And the shrimp can survive on land for only so long. If the parading crustaceans lose their way, they may dry out and die before they get back to the river. A few times, Mr. Hongjamrassilp came across groups of lost shrimp dead on the rocks, their once-translucent bodies baked pink.

Yet most navigate upstream successfully, and scientists have spotted other freshwater shrimp around the world performing similar feats, scaling dams and even climbing waterfalls.

Leaving the water when the swimming gets tough may have helped these animals spread to new habitats over their evolutionary history, Mr. Hongjamrassilp said. Today, the number of parading shrimp in Thailand seems to be declining. He thinks tourist activity may be a factor, and learning more about the shrimp might help protect them.

The study’s authors made “some really excellent observations,” said Alan Covich, an ecologist at the University of Georgia who was not involved in the research. But understanding why the Ubon Ratchathani shrimp move upstream, and how far they travel, will require more research, he said.

“The most surprising thing to me was that it attracted so many tourists,” Dr. Covich said. He doesn’t know of any other example of people gathering to appreciate a crustacean in quite the same way.

“We have crayfish festivals, we have all kinds of things,” Dr. Covich said, “but generally it’s people eating them, not watching them move.”

By: Elizabeth Preston
Title: These Shrimp Leave the Safety of Water and Walk on Land. But Why?
Sourced From: www.nytimes.com/2020/11/18/science/shrimp-parade-thailand.html
Published Date: Wed, 18 Nov 2020 17:02:07 +0000

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Will Aer Lingus launch transatlantic flights from Manchester?

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There are reports that Aer Lingus have applied for 1,500 slots at Manchester Airport for the Summer 2021 season. This will allow the airline to base four aircraft there and service flights to the United States.

At present, there have been no press releases from the airline stating what is going on. Even so, it probably makes sense for the Irish airline to do this in the current market.

Aer Lingus And Manchester

From what is known, there will be three Airbus A321LRs and an A330 based at Manchester. These will operate non-stop services to New York JFK, Boston, Chicago and Orlando, and the season starts on 28 March 2021.

With Thomas Cook having gone out of business, there is likely space for another competitor. New York and Orlando will see competition from Virgin Atlantic, while the other two routes have no airline flying at the moment.

Aer Lingus has been connecting passengers over Dublin very successfully from the UK regions for a while now. Due to this, they will have visibility on traffic patterns, potential yields and more, making this an informed decision.

I imagine they also hope to cream off some of the connecting traffic that routes through London Heathrow on British Airways and Amsterdam on KLM among others. It would prove to be quite successful.

Transatlantic Joint Venture Approval

The US Department of Transport has tentatively given its approval for Aer Lingus to join the oneworld transatlantic joint business. This is operated by American Airlines, British Airways, Iberia and Finnair.

These airlines coordinate schedules and pricing, share revenues and expenses. For the consumer, it means more choice – those making a booking on British Airways across the Atlantic will also see options on American Airlines on the BA web site as one example.



Theoretically, it would allow people seeking flights on the British Airways web site to automatically be given options to fly non-stop with Aer Lingus, along with the Manchester-London Heathrow-US city connecting itinerary.

Whether Aer Lingus will join the oneworld alliance, even in a oneworld connect capacity remains to be seen. Frequent flyers would welcome it, especially those in Ireland.

Overall Thoughts

No doubt the boffins have been working behind the scenes to see if the business case for transatlantic flights from Manchester stack up. As things have proceeded as far as a slot application, I would guess chances are good that it will go ahead.

Either way, let’s see if this happens and if it does, whether Aer Lingus will stay for the long haul. If they can make more money elsewhere, they’ll up sticks and leave. Regardless, it is an interesting development in European aviation.

What do you think of Aer Lingus starting transatlantic services from Manchester? Thank you for reading and if you have any comments or questions, please leave them below.

To never miss a post, follow me on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
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Featured image by N509FZ via Wikimedia Commons.
Aer Lingus A321neo LR by Pitmanaaron via Wikimedia Commons.
Business class cabin via One Mile At A Time.

By: The Flight Detective
Title: Will Aer Lingus launch transatlantic flights from Manchester?
Sourced From: travelupdate.com/aer-lingus-manchester/
Published Date: Wed, 18 Nov 2020 18:03:48 +0000

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